2018 John F. Morgan Sr. Distinguished Faculty Lecture, Dr. Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide

Professor Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility:

What Does It Mean to Be White In a Society That Declares Race to be Meaningless?

If you’re someone white feeling frustrated and defensive and about to ask “Well, what can I do??” then start at the end at 45:15 where she has a “Where Whites Begin” slide and let what you read & hear there sink in, and then go back to the beginning.

Advertisement

It’s not imaginary, it’s not to be ridiculed, and people who declare so defensively that media positioning and advertising “have no impact on their perception” have no idea how socialization works (or are just doing disingenuous denial, like the people currently occupying the White House).

Before Senator Harris connected the dots of how racism is used as a dividing wedge at #SheThePeople2020, Sherrilyn Ifill, Lead Counsel for the NAACP_LDF laid it out in some detail in an op-ed in the Washington Post, but of course she got a whole bunch of defiance and argument and resistance from the usual suspects, who sounded a whole lot like the current occupants in the White House

Advertisement

Chris Matthews is yelling on MSNBC right now about “how he doesn’t see it as a major issue – Why do they want to go after Jewish people and Islamic people and other folks” – but that’s because every single profession in our (white socio-dominant) culture literally segments professions and areas of study apart from one another when the same phenomenon is happening in every single one, literally so that nobody will be able to spot the same inequalities and inequities and mechanisms to maintain hierarchical inequality spread across disciplines and life areas. You have to use an interdisciplinary form of study to understand how pervasive and how pernicious these practices are. It’s extraordinarily difficult to grasp the depth and breadth otherwise (though it’s easier, of course, if you’re living with the impact of them daily and annually and through your children’s lives).

Those who perpetuate and disproportionately benefit from these policies are using your ignorance against you if you don’t want to learn. They are using your denial against you if you fail to acknowledge.

Like the current occupants in the White House.

Professor Carol connects the dots all the way back to Reconstruction (which I suspect is one of the reasons why all the black historians and sociologists were liveTweeting all the way through both segments of Professor Gates special on Reconstruction that just aired on PBS the last two weeks), and the policies in places like Alabama and Texas that have to do with voter IDs and how logistically difficult they make it to acquire those IDs (a government issued student ID is prohibited; a driver’s license is permitted – but all the DMVs are systematically closed by the states in areas where those licenses are already scarce, and they systematically limit public transportation. How are you going to get a driver’s license in a locale where you can’t drive there without a license, the DMV centers are 250 miles apart, and public transportation isn’t available) practically the minute after the Shelby County v. Holder decision was handed down specifically preventing states from implementing such practices.

Advertisement

 The linkage between these policies and our cultural representations is that everyone is affected by these messages.

From Professor Di Angelo’s video:

“This is the Academy Board of Oscars, these are who write our stories, these are the people who shape all our understandings …

*shows a picture of several white men, only three women*

CAPTION

Writers’ Guild: 92% white (at that showing)

Directors’ Guild: 97% white (at that writing)

… AND their depiction of the other, right …?

*shows stills from Blind Side*

“If you are white and you love a movie about race, that should be a red flag … because it’s probably reinforcing a really cherished narrative, which is usually that there are ‘good whites’ and there are ‘bad whites’ and we’re the good whites, and that’s … rooted in the good/bad (binary).

*shows different slide; brown girls are on each side of row of white girls and badly lit* 

“Can you even see the brown girls in this picture?

There’s just one on each side, because that’s what you usually get ...

*embarrassed audience laughter*

*shows slide*

“When you do see Latinas, [the title here is] “Devious Maids”

*embarrassed audience laughter*

“Let’s just talk Lord of the Rings for a minute.

100% every creature in LOTR is white.

They’re literally trying to get to the white city, trying to escape the dark lord of Mordor, their hero is white, and then – these are the monsters *shows the orcs*

“It’s relentless.

The most powerful way my life has been shaped by my race, or what it means to be white ,is

that I could be born into, I could learn, I could play, I could worship, study, love, I could work and I could DIE in segregation and not one person who’s ever loved me or guided me has ever conveyed loss.

The message of segregation – the “good schools” and “good neighborhoods” we love so much – is that there is no inherent value in the perspectives and experiences of people of color.

Now I get to this point in life and I’m a professor – I’m going to have a hard time even noticing they’re missing, much less be able to take in their value.

“Investment in the racial order and de facto segregation are lynchipins of how racism is perpetuated today , and they are what allows us to live so unequally by race and still profess that it has no impact or meaning for us.

Advertisement

So could you and the Federal Bureau of Investigation actually do something about all that, Mr. Wray?

Thanks so much.